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Posted on Mon, Jul 12, 2010 : 4 a.m.

New research: Do Americans think the apocalypse will unfold by 2050?

By Wayne Baker

Forget about all those videos and books predicting the Apocalypse in 2012. New research on American attitudes reveals that most of us are focused a long way past that auspicious year. (If you’re not sure why there’s a stir about the “2012 phenomenon,” Wikipedia has more background.)

In April, the Pew Research Center and Smithsonian Magazine asked Americans about life in 2050. One of the prominent predictions is religious: Jesus Christ will return. Forty-one percent of Americans said they believe that, by 2050, Jesus will return or, in other words, the Christian Apocalypse will unfold.

What do you think?

If you don’t think Christ will return by 2050, then you’re not alone either. About 46 percent say that Christ’s return won’t happen. And, the remainder of respondents? Thirteen percent said they didn’t know or refused to answer.

White evangelical Protestants are more likely than anyone else to believe the Second Coming will occur by 2050. Almost 60 percent believe it will happen by then, compared to less than a third of mainline Protestants and a third of Catholics. Not surprisingly, the religiously unaffiliated overwhelmingly believe the Second Coming will not occur.

Education also plays a role. Only 19 percent of Americans with a college education say the Second Coming will happen by 2050, compared with 59 percent of Americans with a high school education or less.

There’s a maxim in sociology: “Thing’s are different in the South.” And that’s true here, too. A majority of Southerners predict Christ’s return by 2050. Those who believe likewise are in the numerical minority in the Midwest, East and West.

Are you surprised by these findings?

What do you say that chances are that Jesus Christ will return to earth in the next 40 years?

Dr. Wayne E. Baker is a sociologist on the senior faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. He specializes in researching the core beliefs and desires that motivate and shape American culture. Occasionally, Dr. Baker will share a series of faith-related discussions from his blog, Our Values. He can be reached at